Cut Price Party
Most anniversary celebrations are mind-numbing affairs where an uncle gets drunk and embarrasses himself and stories that were boring the first time get told once again to a falsely appreciative audience. Not here, though, because this is the 25th Anniversary of Ruf, a legend in automotive circles, and they haven’t thrown a rubbish drunken party – they’ve stuck to what they know and built a car.
And it’s more than that, the 25th Anniversary Edition 3400K marks a new direction for Ruf, a move to the lower end of the market with a car that costs just €75,000 for the Cayman based creation. And this is a major step for Ruf, which specialises in spectacular machines that come with telephone number price tags.
A crack on the Playstation, with the RTurbo surfacing in the Gran Turismo games, was about as close as most of us would ever get to owning one before now. But the Cayman has provided an opportunity to embrace the masses, a chance to go downtown, and Ruf has grabbed it with both hands. There’s an even cheaper Boxster-based Roadster, too, but the hard-top with its extra rigidity, more manly approach and better handling has to be the one to go for.
But please don’t be confused and think this is simply a Cayman with a few add-ons, it’s a full Ruf with registration documents to prove it. Ruf is fiercely proud of its manufacturer status and is keen to separate itself from the hoi-polloi of tuners. Its seemingly unique skill in keeping the car comfortable, just as pliant as the original and yet finding acres of pace have marked it apart just as effectively as any certificate from the German authorities ever could, however.
And we were all keen to see what Ruf could do with the Cayman, which is, fundamentally, a better sports car than the 911. The fact that it was artificially held back to avoid problems with the marketing department meant it was easy meat for the likes of Alois Ruf, who only really had to boost the ponies to make a stunning car that would make mincemeat of more or less everything. A well driven Cayman can keep with a 911 right now on winding roads, and with the addition of a low-pressure supercharger this car can now hang with a 911 Turbo in a straight line thanks to 400 bustling horses hidden away in the mid-mounted engine.
At least that’s what Ruf says, but I would humbly suggest that they, like Porsche, have opted for a conservative approach. There are more than 400 horses in this car, and it feels significantly faster than the claimed figures of 4.4s to 60mph and 14.8s to 125mph. We didn’t get chance to really go for the 181mph top end speed, but had it kept going all the way to 190mph I would not have been unduly surprised.
Most of the additional horses make themselves felt with an added kick just beyond 5000rpm until the redline at 7400rpm. Nudge past that landmark rev count, though, and you’ll find the kind of acceleration that would worry most supercars, with none of the violence that would seem an inevitable cost of the increased power. Apart from the gentlest whistle from the supercharger the car simply gathers speed.
There’s a gruffer exhaust note than the standard Cayman, but only a connoisseur would tell them apart and there’s none of the latent aggression that some tuners would automatically dial into their cars.
And when it’s on song this machine is near unstoppable as the power-assisted steering allows for surgical precision and a momentum-based approach to the apex. At high speeds those carefully tuned aerodynamics come into effect, too, these are not the comical aerodynamics offered by many others, Ruf is serious about its work and nothing on the car is merely there for appearances.
A new flat floor joins forces with a revised front bumper and rear set-up that not only improves cooling, it also looks the part, which is a massive change in itself. The Cayman was a cute car, but the front bumper was hideous with straight cut plastic, little light surrounds and a generally pretty poor approach to design that came from the bargain bucket.
Ruf went for a Carrera-inspired front end with more stylish lights and a huge air duct to feed the supercharger. It’s a small thing, but it’s transformed the whole look of the car and given it a meatier feel that will leave the car in front sweating on what is flying up behind.
Inside the changes were limited to a new wheel, a logo on the gearstick and pedals, interior jewellery costs big money and that’s not the point here.
The suspension has been tweaked, but for those that want more there’s a fully adjustable kit that weighs in at just €3600 and drops the car 35mm lower than the standard Cayman. Price was the primary concern with this car, but that extra few thousand, the price of SatNav or metallic paint, would give it more grip than gravity.
Ruf can upgrade the brakes, too, to a whopping 350mm on the front mated to six-piston calipers, but again to keep the costs down they’ve simply painted the monobloc four-piston units that come on the base car. And you know what? They work absolutely perfectly, as this 1350kg car simply isn’t heavy enough to require the huge racing numbers or the ridiculously overpriced PCCB ceramic upgrade offered by Porsche.
You can hit the options list hard and come away with a warrior with everything from tyre-pressure monitors to GT3 seats, a fire extinguisher and a borderline racing car dressed as a Porsche. For road use, though, this is all the car you could ever want and one of the most naturally balanced cars in the motoring world.
Even in the upper echelons of the Porsche tweaking world, Ruf has always held a special place. Here, though, their achievement lies not with creating the perfect car, but by how much they have achieved with so little. If this is a sign of things to come then the next 25 years are going to be something truly special, and we’ll remember Ruf’s 25th birthday for many years to come.